Friday, 30 January 2009

Cold weather payment needs sorting out

With another cold snap and biting easterly winds coming our way soon this seems an apposite moment to comment on a story shown on the SW England segment of last Sunday's 'Politics Show'. A benefit available to older folk is a cold weather payment when there are a number of successive days (seven I think they said) during which the temperature drops below freezing point. Such is the variability of our weather that there needs to be a weather station not too far away so that a judgement can be made as to whether this payment needs to be made. Fair enough I guess. But according to the programme a pensioner living at Princetown some 1400 feet above sea level and in the heart of Dartmoor will be dependant on the recorded temperature right down on the coast at Plymouth! As they say "you couldn't make it up".

Now I appreciate that you can't have automatic weather recording everywhere but the piece on the BBC pointed out that just a mile away at Rundlestone Devon County Council have proper equipment for the job. So far as the two main roads crossing Dartmoor are concerned Rundlestone and the road just to the north east of the Warren House Inn are the highest spots and my guess is that the weather station at the first mentioned point is there so that the council can make a judgement on gritting the roads in winter.

What's the betting that it was someone sitting in a ministry office many many miles away and not enquiring about local topography or availability of nearby reliable weather recording equipment who made the crass decision. And a raspberry to the Beeb as well - it was absolutely right to flag this up but why did they pick on the particular couple that were interviewed. A very nice husband and wife no doubt but fairly well built and he for instance was in shirt sleeves and open at the neck. With their Rayburn in the background they weren't looking sufficiently cold! Why couldn't the producer have found a thinner couple well wrapped up in cardigans to emphasise this anomalous situation?

Geoffrey Cox, their local Tory MP was also on the programme, perhaps he can bend someones ear on this issue.

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